Profile: Chris Lansing '89
of the town
a beloved boutique coffee company requires respect for its
tradition and customers, says Peet's CMO
'89 admits to two vices in life: chocolate and coffee, and
since graduating from the Kellogg School, she's managed each
with unbridled passion.
serving several years as the vice president of marketing at
chocolate giant The Hershey Company, Lansing moved last year
to Peet's Coffee & Tea, a Berkeley, Calif.-based specialty
roaster and retailer with a loyal, independent-minded customer
base and a history as rich as its signature blends. Founded
in 1966 by Holland native and coffee connoisseur Alfred Peet,
the company prides itself on roasting, brewing and selling
the highest-quality coffees and teas with almost religious
believe in roasting to a taste, not a color," says Lansing.
Because each batch of beans is different, she says, Peet's
spurns the automated roasting preferred by other popular coffee
merchants, instead employing master roasters — with
an average of more than 10 years experience at Peet's —
to roast each batch by hand.
to Lansing, another practice that differentiates Peet's is
its tradition of roasting to order. "We're so concerned
about the quality of the coffee that we don't want it sitting
on the shelf waiting for someone to enjoy it," she says.
The day after customers place orders, skilled roasters arrive
at Peet's at 4 a.m. and set to work, tasting each batch to
make sure it meets the firm's standards. The coffee is then
distributed within 24 hours to Peet's stores and homes so
that customers can enjoy it at the peak of freshness.
credits her Kellogg education with preparing her to take on
a corporate leadership role. Classes taught by Professors
Kotler and Dipak
C. Jain were among those that imparted valuable marketing
insights, she recalls. "The whole teamwork aspect of
Kellogg has been invaluable," she says.
chief marketing officer at Peet's, Lansing oversees the company's
retail, grocery and home delivery marketing plans, as well
as merchandising strategies and brand and creative services,
including store design and social responsibility programs.
Peet's is very active in the communities it serves and regularly
contributes to charities and supports the arts.
Kellogg alum says it's also important for her to understand
her often fiercely loyal customers — the self-proclaimed
"Peetniks" — though she admits that as a group
they can be difficult to pin down. "They're all over
the map demographically," Lansing says, noting the wide
age range and diverse array of interests and the high degree
of intimacy their culture encourages, even with the company's
CMO: "People will send us paintings that they've done
in their local Peet's."
popularity has soared in recent years, and the number of stores
— spanning six states — has crept into the triple
digits. Even daytime talk-show icon Oprah Winfrey has taken
notice, selecting Peet's coffee as one of her "favorite
things" for 2005 on the show that aired Feb. 1.
is for serious coffee drinkers," Winfrey said during
the broadcast. "You're not playing if you go to Peet's."
says that some longtime customers are selectively wary of
the company's mass appeal: "They say 'Don't grow too
much' as long as there's a Peet's near them." But she
does understand their concern and strives not to let the company's
expansion change the ethos that has defined and sustained
Peets for the past 40 years. "Given that we're growing
so fast," she says, "we have to figure out: How
do we scale?"
says that, so far, the company has maintained its focus on
quality and community, starting small when thinking big. On
Christmas Eve, for example, coffee is free at Peet's, and
all tips are donated to charity. Each Peet's employee is trained
rigorously. "The people in our stores are our biggest
marketing vehicle," says Lansing, adding that they share
their customers' (and her own) passion for delicious coffee,
which she prefers without frills.
go for the straight coffee," she says. "Black."